Embark on a voyage into the realm of textile artistry with Helena Pernow, as she shares her unique perspective and creative process in an exclusive interview with COMA. From her early influences at Nyckelviksskolan to her profound exploration of memory and space within her installations, Helena offers profound insights into her transition to textiles as her primary medium and the profound significance of tactile connections in her work. Delve into the intricacies of her craftsmanship and the narratives woven within each textile masterpiece as we uncover the essence of Helena Pernow's artistic vision.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.


COMA: Your artistic journey seems to have been shaped by various experiences, from interior architecture to textile art. Could you share what led you to transition into working with textiles as your primary medium?

Helena: Since I studied at the prep art school Nyckelviksskolan, I have gravitated towards textile techniques and materials. But it became clear to me, after obtaining a BFA in interior architecture and working for a year as an interior architect, how I longed for more analogue techniques and working closer to a material. So I decided to shift focus and pursue an MFA in textiles. And since then, it’s been all about textiles.

COMA: Your installations often explore the relationship between textiles, memory, and space. How do you approach incorporating these elements into your work, and what significance do they hold for you personally?

Helena: On one hand, I am interested in the material abilities of textiles, their construction, flexibility, and their struggle with gravity. The installation of the work is just as important as the work itself. On the other hand, I am also interested in textiles’ ability to carry memories. For me, textiles are the perfect materials to immerse in when it comes to themes of memory and intimacy. Our skin and textiles are continuously touching each other; in bedsheets, towels, and clothes, building a strong tactile connection.

COMA: Talking about the three pieces you are presenting at COMA. What inspired these artworks, and what do you hope viewers take away from experiencing them?

Helena: The weaves at COMA are a continuation from another project. For an exhibition in 2022, I made an outdoor installation with ropes made from linen threads dyed in indigo. After three months of sun, rain, and salty winds, I untwined the ropes and used them as a warp in making these three weaves. So in one way, they are a documentation of time and weather at that site. Of course, this is impossible to see for the viewer, but the history of the material adds layers to the final piece.

COMA: You've mentioned the importance of understanding the materiality of textiles, including the process of linen-making. How does this knowledge inform your artistic practice, and why is it significant to you?

Helena: For a couple of years, I have grown an interest in understanding textile processes from origin, from seed to fabric or plant to pigment. I am just about to start spinning the flax I have grown in my garden. Linen preparation is a very long process, but I was curious to know it – and to know by doing it myself. Though this linen-making project is still at an early stage, I don’t know what it will turn into.

COMA: Could you describe your creative process when developing site-specific installations such as those exhibited in galleries? How do you navigate the balance between concept and execution?

Helena: My practice is process-driven, and by that, I mean the work often expands from the technique and material. Concepts and ideas often unfold and formulate as I work.

COMA: Living and working in Bärfendal, Bohuslän, has clearly influenced your work. How does the local environment inspire or inform your artistic practice?

Helena: I guess my surroundings always inform my work, in a way. And every studio has its limits and possibilities, and I like to work with that. But I guess living in a rural context has given me the space to look into processes of growing and harvesting my own pigments and growing flax. It is also inspiring to be part of the big community of artists living in this part of Bohuslän.

COMA: Your involvement with the Swedish Crafts Centre allows you to zoom out from your personal practice and consider craft within a broader context. How does this perspective influence your approach to artmaking?

Helena: I am very lucky to have that perspective in parallel with my own artistic practice. It is fruitful to understand more about the field in general. A very common struggle for artists and craft artists is the feeling of being lonely. I guess I feel a bit less lonely and strengthened by also having the perspective of the bigger context.

COMA: Collaboration seems to be a significant aspect of your practice. Can you discuss the role of collaboration in your work and how it enhances your creative process?

Helena: Collaborations are a very central part of my practice. I have several collaborative projects going on. As mentioned before, working with colleagues is a way to find strength. I am also very interested in the collaborative process, exploring the boundaries of the individual and the group, the self and the other.

COMA: Could you share any upcoming projects or exhibitions you're excited about?

Helena: I am very excited about an upcoming exhibition in September at Galleri KC in Gothenburg where we will present a collaborative project I am working on together with textile artist Linnea Dalstrand, Alva Noreen, and Tove Starfelt. We will show work that has been dyed in different natural pigments harvested over the year.

COMA: Finally, what message or emotions do you hope your viewers or participants experience when engaging with your installations and artworks?

Helena: Tough question… When I engage with art, I am often struck by curiosity, so hopefully that feeling can be transmitted also through my work.

March, 2024 - COMA Editorial team